R. William “Bill” Becker (1947)
Bill’s father purchased groves in Clermont and Fort Pierce. Becker’s mentor at Florida Southern was professor Thomas B. Mack (also a Florida Citrus Hall of Fame inductee). He planted the B-4 Groves in Martin County for Becker Holding Company. Becker killed the Brand Advertising Rebate Program that had taken money from the growers to pay for advertisements that he felt did not need the growers’ money.
- Indian River Food Processing Plant
- Florida Citrus Commission
- Brand Advertising Rebate Program
- Brix Values
William “Bill” Becker was born in Patterson, New Jersey. William Becker spent his childhood in Darien, Connecticut with his two sisters, Barbara and JoAnn. The Beckers had a second home in Delray Beach, Florida, and began investing in citrus. Bill’s father purchased groves in Clermont and Fort Pierce. In 1960 Bill’s father relocated the family to Florida and created Becker Groves. Becker worked in the family business growing up.
Becker attended boarding school in Connecticut, and eventually enrolled in St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1963 he transferred to Florida Southern College. At FSC, Becker majored in economics and he minored in citrus. Florida Southern was one of the few colleges at the time that had a citrus program. Becker’s mentor at Florida Southern was distinguished professor Thomas B. Mack (also a Florida Citrus Hall of Fame inductee). Becker was quite active on campus. He was President of the SAE fraternity and he was a member of the Greek Hall of Fame. He was also a member of the Order of Omega, a prestigious leadership fraternity on campus. Becker served in the Student Government Association and in numerous leadership positions on campus.
After graduation Becker became general manager of Becker Groves. His father put him in charge of planting groves on new land the company acquired. He planted the B-4 Groves in Martin County for Becker Holding Company. Under his leadership Becker Holding increases the volume of boxes of fruit processed per year in their newly acquired Indian River Foods processing plant from one million to twelve million boxes a year. Later, as the Vice President of Becker Holding Corporation, Becker helped direct the juice processing plant, and managed 12,000 acres of groves in St. Lucie, Martin and Indian River counties.
In 1991, Bill Becker created Becker Trading Company, which owned and leased about 4,000 acres of groves under several different partnerships. Becker Trading Company acquired several processing plants, which enabled the company to process approximately eighteen million boxes of fruit per year. Becker, Bart Plymale, and several other associates built Peace River Citrus Products processing plant in Arcadia Florida in 1994. Later the Becker Trading Company acquired Orange-Co. in Bartow, and thus Becker was able to expand his citrus processing plant.
Aside from his involvement in the growing and processing aspect of the citrus industry, Becker served on the Florida Citrus Commission, appointed to two consecutive terms by Gov. Bob Graham (Dem.) and Gov. Bob Martinez (Rep.) from 1985-1991. He served as Chairman of the Commission for five of his six years on the Commission. Becker’s tenure was one of the most difficult in recent history as devastating freezes hit Florida. Becker worked to maintain domestic markets while advocating expansion to foreign markets.
As a member of the Commission, Becker worked to restructure the Florida Department of Citrus and the Commission. Becker helped shift the Commission’s focus to promotional marketing. He also worked hard to enhance quality standards. Becker also refocused the Commissions’ attention on the growers, backing the use of the 10-box bins and working to set fair pay standards for growers. In response to the changing citrus growing regions, Mr. Becker helped to redistrict the Commission so as to accurately represent the interests of each growing district. As a commissioner, he promoted the European “pink” designation to market red grapefruit for the fresh fruit industry. Becker was also a leader in the development of grapefruit juice market in Japan. He encouraged country of origin markings. He fought the reduction of import tariffs on citrus juices, recognizing the danger of foreign markets to the Florida Citrus Industry. Becker also helped in the standardization of Brix values in FDA juice drink regulations, and he worked hard to obtain various food safety measures.
Becker killed the Brand Advertising Rebate Program that had taken money from the growers to pay for advertisements that he felt did not need the growers’ money. Even if Becker’s positions did not always receive universal support from other commission members, he was always able to get along with others that possessed different viewpoints. For example, he had fond memories with fellow commissioner and Citrus Hall of Fame member, Bernie Egan, about times that they would “have a great time in transit [to Commission meetings] but would fight tooth and nail at the Commission meeting, yet were able to maintain a great friendship through the years.”
William Becker received countless awards for his involvement in the Citrus Industry. Florida Southern College recognized with the Citrus Club Award for his outstanding service to its Citrus Institute. He was President of the National Juice Products Association and the Florida Citrus Processors Association. For over twenty-five years he served as a board member of the Florida Citrus Production Managers Association. One of Becker’s current interests is working toward the preservation of properties and Florida’s environment. Becker has served the citrus industry, as a processor and commissioner, with his time, talents, and valuable knowledge.